This is the eulogy I wrote and read at Pop’s funeral vigil, January 7, 2018. Some of my most treasured essays are on this blog, so it belongs here, late though it is. I am backdating it to fall in line with other essays from the same period. – LSM 12/28/19
On behalf of our family I want to thank each of you for being with us tonight. Whether you personally know just one or all of us, we have felt and have been lifted by your kindness, your concern, your love and support, and most importantly your prayers. You have fed us, held us, laughed and cried with us. You have allowed us to lean on you and have given us strength. When we cursed our darkness, you lit a candle – with a phone call or a text, or a simple Facebook message. Some of you quite literally lit candles, and I love you for it. You let us know we weren’t alone, and you shared our pain as much as you could. We are forever grateful.
For those among you who don’t know me, I’m Lori, the middle daughter-in-law. I belong to Dominic. I call Charolette and Bob “Mom and Dad” and they call me their daughter. Melissa, Kasie and I are fortunate to have been embraced by Mom and Dad so openly – so completely – that they do not distinguish between the children they birthed and the children they acquired.
I don’t remember the day I actually met Dad, but I do remember the first time I ever saw him. Mom and Dad came to our college campus to watch an intramural soccer game. Charolette sat in a lawn chair on the west edge of the field while Bob stood a few feet away on the sideline with Dominic. I was positioned a good distance behind the men, where I could bear witness to the physical similarities between them. Dominic and Bob stood side by side, each with one hand hanging on a hip or a pants pocket, one leg bearing most of the weight while the other leg bent just slightly at the knee. That day on the soccer field I felt as if I was looking at two versions of the same person, brought together by a thin fold of time, as if past and future were somehow overlaid and allowed to coexist in the same space for a single moment. I thought to myself, “I must really like this boy. I mean, I can see what he’s going to look like in thirty years and I’m still interested.”
As the pages of our days turned over and new chapters were written, I learned that nothing put a smile on Dad’s face like his grandbabies. With the patience of Job and what I can only imagine were built-in noise-cancelling eardrums, he paced the floor with gassy, screaming infants; tolerated the most obnoxious clanging toys; and remained unphased by temper tantrums. When my daughter announced at age three that she liked Papa best and I inquired why, her answer confirmed what I had suspected all along: “Because Papa never tells me ‘no!’”
If you knew Dad personally, then you know how he loved to help people. If you were ever on the asking end, you could be certain he would not turn you down. Need twelve cords of wood split? Here he comes. Need something welded? Bring it on over. Need extra hands digging trenches, cleaning gutters or serving meals? Make room for Bob.
In addition to saving stockpiles of random lumber, PVC and metal pipes, Dad was known to salvage every nut, bolt and moving part from every machine he or his boys ever owned. In fact, they are all in his garage right now. I affectionately call Dad’s garage the Rusty Home Depot because if you needed anything that Home Depot sells, and you don’t mind a little rust on it, you can get it from Dad’s garage for free.
Dad lived happy and could laugh about almost anything (and frequently did, much to Mom’s annoyance.) In all the years I knew him, I saw Dad get angry maybe three times. I saw him cry. None of us likes to cry in front of people, but Dad was never ashamed of it. I saw him break, fully and wildly, only once and that was because one of his sons was in danger. I learned in that moment that nothing – not recent triple bypass or a seventy pound table in his way – would keep him from holding his boy.
When I began to write this I had two goals in mind: to honor Dad and to comfort my family, so I will address this last part to the first few rows. This is not the end. Papa’s life is not over. He has gone where we cannot follow, but only for now. There will be moments when our minds will naturally expect to see Papa, and our hearts will break again when we remember that he is not here. For me, it will be every time I look out my kitchen window and expect to see him tinkering in the well house or watering his plants, with Lady wagging her tail beside him, faithfully following wherever he goes.
This will be hard, but we have each other. We will cry together; we will hurt together. And we will still gather for Sunday lunch, even when we don’t feel like eating. Our hearts are broken but they are not empty, and none of us has to bear this pain alone. Papa loved each of us deeply, and it is our job now to nurture that love among us and pass it to the next generations. His joy for life will live in our memories. His laughter will echo in our hearts. We will see him in each other, and one day, after we have lived a life as full as he did, when we arrive on the other side, we will hear that booming laughter again, and we will know we are home.